The Milwaukee Bucks have been decimated by injuries this season, but the absence of Brook Lopez could kill their shot at consecutive championships.
The Bucks were on track to win a title until they lost key defensive stalwart and starting center Brook Lopez for all or most of 2019 to injury before the season began. The 27-year-old has missed over half the year due to left foot surgery that he underwent in September 2018 and it is uncertain when (if ever) he will be able to return, let alone contribute his usual level of play.
Milwaukee’s chances are now less than 50% without him as a healthy Giannis Antetokounmpo needs help from other teammates like Khris Middleton who has also been plagued with injuries himself so far this year including an early exit from last night’s game against Denver where he had just 10 points because of another ankle issue

The Milwaukee Bucks have been decimated by injuries this season. The absence of Brook Lopez has killed their shot at consecutive championships.

The Milwaukee Bucks Have Been Decimated by Injuries This Season, but the It’s the Absence of Brook Lopez That Could Kill the Their Shot at Consecutive Championships

The Milwaukee Bucks were one of the preseason favorites to win the NBA Championship in 2021-22, which would be their second consecutive triumph.

Milwaukee still has a chance to achieve that objective as of February 2nd. However, the Bucks have been plagued by injuries so far this season, and as a result, they have fallen farther behind in the Eastern Conference rankings than they had expected.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jrue Holiday have all been out for extended periods of time. Milwaukee’s chances of winning back-to-back championships may be jeopardized by the absence of center Brook Lopez, more than the absence of its Big Three.

Brook Lopez has been out of the Milwaukee Bucks’ lineup since the start of the season.

The injury to Brook Lopez might be what causes the Milwaukee Bucks to fall short of an NBA championship this season.

The injury to Brook Lopez might be what causes the Milwaukee Bucks to fall short of an NBA championship this season. During the first quarter of a game at American Airlines Arena, Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks celebrate a play against the Miami Heat. | Getty Images/Michael Reaves

In a season-opening victory against the Brooklyn Nets, the Bucks’ starting center played 28.2 minutes.

Lopez was subsequently listed on the injury report as “out” with “back pain” and did not play in Milwaukee’s game against the Miami Heat the next night.

Since then, he’s been out using the same moniker.

Lopez underwent back surgery on December 2, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. There was no timetable for his comeback at the moment, but head coach Mike Budenholzer’s remarks that Lopez “will play again this year” were not promising.

The following is an excerpt from a Journal Sentinel story by Jim Owczarski:

“However, Budenholzer was certain that the 14-year veteran’s career would not be jeopardized by the procedure. 

“The comments, the chats, and the follow-up following this morning were all very, very encouraging,” Budenholzer said, “including anticipating him to be able to play and be effective.” “I believe today’s operation was performed on a number of basketball players, sportsmen, and sportspeople. Returning to play is very, very common.”

The fact that the phrases “career” and “danger” were put next to them other didn’t make Lopez’s comeback in 2021-22 seem promising.

This season, DeMarcus Cousins, Luke Kornet, Sandro Mamukelashvili, and Georgios Kalaitzakis have all played center for Milwaukee. Something that, once again, does not inspire a lot of optimism.

Antetokounmpo has logged the bulk of the Bucks’ minutes at the five, with Bobby Portis filling in on occasion.

However, you don’t know what you’ve had until it’s gone, and the squad is now without Lopez.

Milwaukee has been a different team since losing its starting center.

Is there any word on when Brook Lopez will return from his injury?

I know they’re reigning champions, but after seeing the Bucks lose to the Cavs and the Nuggets, I’m concerned about their prospects of returning to the finals if he doesn’t participate.

— Mo Mooncey (@TheHoopGenius) February 1, 2022

Brook played his first nine seasons in the NBA with the Brooklyn Nets. He was a back-to-the-basket post-up center only.

In 2017-18, he joined the Los Angeles Lakers, but he only averaged 13.0 points and 4.0 rebounds as his career drew to a conclusion.

However, when he signed with Milwaukee and joined Budenholzer the next year, he saw an instant career comeback, if not a complete career makeover.

Lopez made 36.5 percent of his three-point shots that year, which was a career high. His increase in three-point output was unexpected, but it was precisely what the Bucks needed.

That season, the 7-footer also blocked 2.4 shots, making him one of the NBA’s best rim-protecting stretch fives. He led Milwaukee to the best record in the NBA in 2018-19 and accomplished it again in 2019-20 before helping the club win its first championship in 50 years last season.

Before Lopez came, the Bucks had a negative point differential. Milwaukee topped the NBA with an 8.9 point difference in his first season with the organization. The squad finished first again in 2019-20 after finishing third in the championship-winning season the previous year.

In similar fashion, the Bucks moved from dead last in rebounding before to Brook’s arrival to first, first, and second in the three seasons that followed.

Prior to the arrival of the former Stanford Cardinal, Milwaukee ranked 22nd in three-point shooting %. The Bucks went from 15th to fifth in his first season in the Cream City, winning the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Brook isn’t exaggerating when he says he unlocked Milwaukee’s potential.

For his squad to win back-to-back titles, Lopez must be at full strength.

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Milwaukee is 32-21 as of February 2nd in the Eastern Conference. The top of the conference is such a muddled mess that the Bucks are just 1.5 games behind the Chicago Bulls — yet only four games out of a play-in place.

Antetokounmpo has led the club to seventh place in the NBA in scoring and second place in rebounds, but his defense is average, and ball movement has slowed (20th in assists).

During the first part of the year, injuries were a valid reason. Giannis, Middleton, and Holiday have all been out for extended periods of time.

However, those three have been reasonably healthy for weeks, and the Bucks have yet to make a move. Something is obviously lacking from a club that has dominated the league for the last three years.

Brook Lopez is that something.

NBA.com provided all data.

RELATED: NBA Trade Deadline: The Milwaukee Bucks Could Strengthen Their Roster and Improve Their Chances of Winning Back-to-Back Championships, but It Would Mean Making a Tough Decision on Their ‘Younger Khris Middleton’ Jordan Nwora is a Nigerian musician.

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